At different points in time Lucious Lyon has lost his family and his label. But the entertainer turned mogul has never lost the game. That was his not-so-subtle message to his son, Hakeem, when he brought the rapper down to the exact location where he offed his best friend and second father to his kids, Bunky. It was a cold, cunning move by the Lyon patriarch with a bold message: “You wanna be king, kill your father and sit on his throne.”
Hakeem didn't take the bait, but it was a proclamation that Lucious will do anything for his label and his hot/cold act with his children may be much darker than we even realize. Terrence Howard's character has been pushed to the periphery as the show has pointed more toward the Lyon sons, however, Empire will forever revolve around the veteran actor and his few scenes in "Death Will Have It's Day" proved that.
The Lyon clan is as embattled as they've ever been, with alliances switching like a '64. While Jamal calls that "Freedom," it's continued to imprison Cookie just without the bars. And the collateral damage includes Ronda, Anika, board members and would-be-CEOs.
Who will rise and take the reins? Can Lucious reclaim what's his with it's slippery entrapments? Or will Hakeem prove once and for all that he's the true heir? And where does that leave Cookie, Andre and Jamal in the big picture?
Let's get through these questions and more, quickly...we only have 48 hours.
Welcome to the new era of Hakeem Lyon. First, WTF was he wearing when he took over as CEO? And, what do we make of his power move: he said he didn't plan it, then he seems to crave it and yet he folded like a paper plan when he negotiated with Cookie. Is he big time or way over his head?
Ralph Bristout, Sr. Writer: My first reaction to the suit: "Oh snap, this must be the latest gear from the Empire men collection." In the words of Charles Barkley, it was turrible. Anyhow, Hakeem may be in over his head here because it looks like he isn't aware of the struggle that lies ahead with building his music career and the legacy of Empire as a company.
Asmar Bouie, Digital Producer: Every time I see Hakeem become brave, it's not long until he shows how incredibly naïve he still is. I'm gonna go out on a limb here and say I think he's both big time and way in over his head.
Taylor Cross, Marketing Coordinator: Hakeem is definitely coming into his own this season and setting the tone that the new era has arrived. The usually swagged-out heir looked like Willy Wonka with that colorful suit; wasn't feeling it. Hakeem really doesn't have that much experience in running a company and we already catch that he may not be seeing things through when he tried to have Cookie and Camilla work together. Hakeem has potential but where does his loyalty lie? He is way over his head to underestimate Lucious but that new era speech seemed to go well for Hakeem.
Amber Mackie, Production Coordinator: Hakeem's outfit, two words, HATED IT. Besides Hakeem's terrible fashion sense, I believe that he's very confused. He's stuck between wanting power and respect and wanting the love of his family. Well, the love from everyone in his family besides Luscious. Hakeem has made it very clear that he isn't scared of Luscious and no matter how badly Luscious tries to intimidate him, he will not conform. It was interesting but not surprising to see Hakeem fold when negotiating with Cookie. However while negotiating he reminded Cookie, Jamal and Andre that although his recent decisions may have been unforgivable he did everything to bring his family back together. But baby boy is definitely in over his head. Once your own father tells you he will kill you in order to become CEO/King again, you now have one of two choices, surrender your CEO title or die. All I know is, shit is about to get real.
DaJuan Walker, Office Manager: Hakeem is in over his head and maybe his wardrobe as well. Hakeem is confused and hurt. I feel he struggles between the hurt and revenge he has for his father vs. his love and admiration for his mother. He's lost! No big time there.
There also seems to be a new era of Jamal Lyon, from "Freedom" to his unwavering support of his father to his telling Hakeem that the CEO see it too hot for what it's worth. What do we make of where he stands considering his evolution in season one and his descent in the first half of season two.
Ralph Bristout, Sr. Writer: Jamal seems to be in a much better place creatively and musically. Where being at the CEO table was his aim in the past, now he's much more focused on the music. It feels like we'll finally see him drop that damn album he's been working on since season one.
Asmar Bouie, Digital Producer: I think Jamal has grown the most out of the family: From being at the bottom of the totem pole to now being this global superstar, and icon. Did I also mentioned he's endorsed by Pepsi? Now I think he's gonna start have issues with his identity. Everyone will force him to eventually choose sides and once he falls in love with Sky, things will be a lot harder to choose.
Taylor Cross, Marketing Coordinator: Jamal is transforming again and is ever changing within in his character. He is being very strong for his family and seem to bring everyone together as one even after all the dramatic back stabbing and Cookie whooping the black off of Hakeem with a broom stick. Winning the ASA award will make him legendary and will hopefully shed some good press on the company.
Amber Mackie, Production Coordinator: I think Jamal is finally becoming level headed and comfortable with who he is. Season one and the first half of season two was a roller coaster ride for him. Now you can physically see that he's comfortable with his sexuality and who he is as a person, and I love it. You can see that all of his experiences with his father, mother and sexuality has allowed him to grow. It looks like Jamal has found peace within himself and I'm here for it.
DaJuan Walker, Office Manager: Jamal has had a rocky road as it pertains to his place at Empire. Season one was all about Jamal's road to freedom, respect and power. So far season two has Jamal playing the fence with his parents, career and sexuality.
Rank: Who is the the biggest ride or die in this series? Cookie for her family, Thirsty for Lucious or Camilla for Hakeem?
Ralph Bristout, Sr. Writer: Cookie for her family.
Asmar Bouie, Digital Producer: My first answer to the best ride or die chick was Camilla based off her power move into Empire, but I noticed it's not about her love for Hakeem that brought her back. With that being said, my ride or die is Thirsty because he reminds me of my best friend.
Taylor Cross, Marketing Coordinator: Cookie is the biggest ride or die for her family hands down. Always willing to do the "dirty work."
Amber Mackie, Production Coordinator: Cookie has always been a ride or die for her family, that's nothing new, but after seeing this episode I would have to say the biggest ride or die would be Thirsty for Lucious. From hiding the guns from the cops to helping Lucious formulate a plan to take out all Empire CEO candidates, Thirsty has definitely proved his loyalty not only to Luscious but to me. Thirsty is clearly down for whatever, whenever.
DaJuan Walker, Office Manager: Biggest ride or die is Cookie! Regardless of anything she will stop at nothing to keep her family together. The same way Lucious will stop at nothing to regain control of Empire. So I guess it would be a tie between the two.
The ZOMG moment: Anika visits Ronda in the hospital. Discuss.
Ralph Bristout, Sr. Writer: Anika visiting Rhonda in the hospital was tough to watch considering what she did last time we saw her in the mid-season finale. What a snake. Hearing her tell Rhonda "I know there will be another heir," felt like the equivalent to watching someone twist the knife in another person's back.
Asmar Bouie, Digital Producer: Anika going to see Rhonda had me shaking my head the entire time. Empire has this thing where they want you to assume that it was Anika who pushed Rhonda, because she was asking these odd, eerie questions. But I won't assume, I have a feeling it'll get deeper. Plus it's only a matter of time before Rhonda recalls the incident anyways, so let's see time tell it.
Taylor Cross, Marketing Coordinator: That moment when your not here for the petty. When Anika walked in the door it seemed clear to me who pushed Ronda. Anika needs help and now that her baby daddy is CEO maybe she'll get it this time. But everything comes full circle in the Empire family, including the rise and the fall.
Amber Mackie, Production Coordinator: So, remember when the first half of the second season ended and I wrote that I had never been so angry in my life over the actions of a fictional character? Well I lied. Tonight I think my blood pressure most definitely went through the roof! Because that evil spawn of Satan angered my soul when she walked through that door. Honestly, I didn’t think Anika had it in her to be this evil. At this point I’m just counting down the episodes until the Lyons realize that she’s responsible so Anika can finally get what's coming to her.
DaJuan Walker, Office Manager: I'm looking forward to Rhonda figuring out it was Anika who pushed her down those stairs. Anika seems to be playing her own game and no one is keeping score. When Anika visits Rhonda in the hospital it was only to see what Rhonda remembered. Anika will get what's coming as soon as Rhonda remembers she was pushed.
Line of the night, "I'll take care of Fredo" (Lucious); "I already did" (Camilla); "Promise me we'll really be together." (Valentia); "You wanna be king, kill your father and sit on his throne" (Lucious)” or something else?
Ralph Bristout, Sr. Writer: "Promise me we'll really be together." Trouble awaits these two, especially when Camilla comes pulling Hakeem's leash and Anika reveals the baby. Oh, what a time.
Asmar Bouie, Digital Producer: Line of the night would be "Watch your back baby boy, I keep my promises!" Lucious always has the best lines. This is a huge point to where we really see how far Lucious Lyon will to sink to keep his precious Empire.
Taylor Cross, Marketing Coordinator: "You wanna be king, kill your father and sit on his throne." Clearly Lucious has gone delusional. Who said anything about kill your father? And where's Freda Gats?
Amber Mackie, Production Coordinator: The line of the night is when Cookie told Jamal "I need you to get back in the game and get your gay back." I laughed so hard! You gotta love Cookie Lyon.
DaJuan Walker, Office Manager: "You want to be king, kill your father and sit on his throne."